(Sept. 24) Ming Tsai, chef/owner of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., received the 2002 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northeast award. He’s writing his second cookbook, and he stars in two television cooking shows. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation selected him as spokesman for National Food Safety Education Month and he speaks out about safety behind the scenes.
The theme of National Food Safety Education Month for September is “Check it out before you check it in.” What suggestions do you have for produce?
When shipments arrive, pay close attention to both the containers and the contents. At Blue Ginger, we check shipping containers for signs of pests, including eggs, insect parts, droppings or gnawing or tears. We return the container if it is not top quality.
What are some of the greatest restaurant challenges regarding food safety for produce?
It’s hard to plan to order correct amounts of produce so that what you use is only top quality and it doesn’t turn moldy, soft or brown. Make sure what you order is the freshest and check it daily and sometimes hourly.
Give a few practical steps for chefs to help with food safety.
Post your expectations. We have food safety poster “cheat sheets” on the wall urging workers to check equipment, clean it, use it and reclean it.
After any piece of equipment, cutting board or knife comes in contact with food, require that employees clean it with a sanitizing agent.
How do you recommend that chefs teach their staff about food safety?
When you hire staff, check to see if they have completed a food safety training course and are certified. If they need to be recertified, foot the bill to get them recertified.
At Blue Ginger, if a new food handler or cook has not been trained, they learn our protocol. They trail someone else and learn how to prepare food, how to store it and how to clean and sanitize equipment.
What kind of a food safety mind-set is important for chefs?
Think through every step: checking the food in, deciding what knife to use or admiring how the food looks on the plate. If it isn’t all top quality and safe, it’s a reflection on your restaurant.